Prime Time

This week marks the unofficial start to many home vegetable gardens here on Salt Spring (and much of Canada).  And, just in time, the weather is making like it wants to cooperate with a forecast of normal temperatures for this time of the year.  Update: maybe not.  Grrrr.  Anyway, hopefully people will come out anyway.
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I got a bit of a newbie scare last week.  I thought some of our tomatoes had contracted the dreaded fungal disease, “late” blight.  Some leaves on some plants turned a dark colour and the stems on those plants also got tiny spots on them.  The plants most affected seemed to be those on the top shelf of the transplant tunnel.  I had been warned of blight by Linda in her most recent edition of Linda’s List.  Uncovered tomatoes and tomatoes in poorly ventilated greenhouses were most at risk.
A couple of days earlier, I had started transferring some plants from the transplant tunnel to the big tunnel (which has more volume) but hadn’t gotten far.  Last year a farmer friend had gotten blight because of a too-humid greenhouse and then had been duped into using a non-organic fungicide on them, thus rendering all the produce from that greenhouse non-organic for 3 years.  Not that we were at risk of losing organic status (because we don’t have it to begin with) but I was concerned about having to spend a lot of time and effort fixing a crop that hadn’t even been transplanted and then possibly losing a significant portion of our income due to lower yields.
Happily we were able to get Linda herself to look at a sample plant; she pronounced it healthy…but sunburned.  Sunburned?!  Yes, sunburned.  Indeed, it looked as though I had put those leaves in the oven and had started to bake them. But why, in the middle of the coldest spring on record, would they get sunburned. 
But maybe that’s the key.  The plants were relatively well acclimatized to cold and to wind (with an oscillating fan doing its best impression) but perhaps not to sun which, when seen at all this spring, wasn’t very intense…except maybe for that one hot Saturday, our first market, April 23.  That day it did get warm and was sunny all day with a moderate-high UV.  And I had just installed greenhouse cooling misters which I proceeded to use immediately since the interior temps were approaching 30C.  Maybe the tomatoes, being at the highest point in the tunnel, with not much ventilation, after months of weak s UV weren’t used to all the heat and UV light, especially in conjunction with fine droplets of light-magnifying water on their leaves.  Still, if it happened back then, I’m surprised we didn’t notice until so much later.  Maybe that’s another danger of putting plants on the top shelf; not only can’t you see how dry the soil is but you can’t see the tops of the leaves.
Anyway, the tomatoes all look really good otherwise.  The tomato half of the big tunnel is fully planted.  We have a few hundred more plants to sell as starts and, judging by our recent sales rate and a projected bump higher due to May Long Weekend with excellent weather forecasted (Update: ok, not so much), I suspect we will sell most of them.  What looked like an absolutely ridiculous number of tomatoes a week ago, looks a whole lot more reasonable now.
And I haven’t yet written about the trials and tribulations of planting in the big tunnel.  Next time?
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In other news, I just found out yesterday that our order of sweet potato slips (like seed) from New Brunswick won’t be coming after all due to a recent crop failure there.  I really hoped to have something a little different this year for the health food store and for the chefs but I guess they’ll have to be happy with white beets and blue tomatoes.

One response to “Prime Time

  1. great post!
    i didn’t know about sunburn either

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